May 11th, 2013
GAME 3: Thunder at Grizzlies

Experience doesn’t necessarily put points on the scoreboard, but for an NBA team, there is inherent value in having been there before.

Head Coach Scott Brooks has guided the Thunder to its fourth straight Playoff appearance during the 2012-13 season. Along with veterans like Kendrick Perkins and Derek Fisher who also have external Playoff experience, the core of the Thunder’s team has been through nine Playoff series including an NBA Finals run and two trips to the Western Conference Finals. The Thunder has held series leads, trailed in series and played in game sixes and sevens, all of which is helpful to lean upon.

“Our guys have been around,” Brooks said. “They have been through a lot of games before, a lot of series before… We’re excited about the challenge.”

The Thunder split two games at Chesapeake Energy Arena to start its second round series against the Memphis Grizzlies by winning on Sunday afternoon and dropping Game Two on Tuesday night. By coming from behind to win Game One and holding a lead inside of the final three minutes in Game Two, the Thunder gave itself a chance to win both games by playing hard and sticking together. With the internal strength of the Thunder organization because of its players, coaches and staff, the Thunder will not overreact in either direction after an exciting win or a tough loss.

“In the Playoffs you can’t get too high and can’t get too low,” Perkins said. “You just have to stay positive. You just have to stay even keeled. At the end of the day we have nothing to hang our heads about. Obviously we wanted to win the game but the series is tied 1-1. We’re in a good situation.”

Above all, maintaining poise between Playoff games within a series is equally as critical as maintaining composure during a game. Leaders like Kevin Durant help the Thunder stay the course and work collectively to improve every day. By maintaining the right attitude, being mentally tough and understanding the task at hand, the Thunder has the chance to hit the road to Memphis and take a game back on the Grizzlies’ home floor.

“As a leader I always have to stay positive,” Durant said. “We always like a fight. We always like a challenge… If we continue to just keep playing hard every minute we’re on the floor, we’ll put ourselves in a good position.”

The Thunder holds home-court advantage throughout the Western Conference Playoffs, but as many Thunder players described, in order to be successful teams have to be able to win on the road as well as at home. More than that, however, there is a realization inside the Thunder locker room that there’s no formula for victory in a series. If the Thunder falls behind in a series or gets up big in one, there is no guarantee for success or failure. The only thing it can control is the work it gives to the team each day, the mental energy it puts forth in film study and the execution of its goals on the court.

“You just have to understand that there is no script for the Playoffs,” Fisher said. “If you want to be the best, you just figure out how to get it done, no matter what circumstances you face. That’s what this team has done in the past. That’s what we’ll have to do now.”

Momentum in the Playoffs is somewhat of a myth. Each game is separate from the others and no game will contain the same plot as the previous one. There may be consistent themes, for instance turnovers and defensive rebounding in this Thunder-Grizzlies series, but as each game comes to a close, the winner will be the one who accomplished what it wanted to do on the floor better. The experience the Thunder has up and down the roster in the Playoffs provides the team with all of this knowledge to help it stay steady between series, between games and during games.

“(Experience) gives you some perspective and helps you prepare as you try to get ready for the next one,” Collison said. “You realize that each game is its own thing and equally important. You have to be able to move on from a loss and from games you win too. You have to be able to come back and refocus. We’ll have to be ready for Game Three.”